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Big 12 debut for WVU

MORGANTOWN - Video meeting rooms in Morgantown and Waco this week were pretty much the same as they always are leading up to a game.

In Morgantown they watched tape of Baylor. In Waco it was West Virginia highlights that were pored over.

But in both places, there was a third team that showed up more than one might expect.

It's another six weeks before West Virginia meets Oklahoma State and even longer - nine weeks - until Baylor faces the Cowboys. But OSU got plenty of attention from both staffs this week for one very good reason.

The Cowboys have Baylor's number. And West Virginia these days has a definite OSU feel to its coaching staff. So West Virginia spent time studying how to duplicate that success. Baylor likely spent as much time discerning how to overcome it.

What they learned - if anything - could have a significant impact today when No. 9 West Virginia (3-0) hosts No. 25 Baylor (3-0) at Mountaineer Field. The noon game will be televised by FX and is WVU's first conference game as a member of the Big 12.

"There are definitely some similarities,'' West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith said regarding the offenses of Oklahoma State and West Virginia. "We'll look at it, sure. But it's still a different game.''

True, it is a different game and even different teams. But consider a few things about how WVU and OSU are intertwined and how that might relate to today's game with Baylor:

  • Oklahoma State has had nothing but success against Baylor, having won six straight and 15 of 16 since the formation of the Big 12. In the last six years, OSU is 6-0 against the Bears with an average margin of 32 points. None of the games have been even remotely close. Oklahoma State is the only team Baylor hasn't beaten in Big 12 play in Art Briles' four-plus years.
  • Baylor has averaged just 16.3 points per game against Oklahoma State under Briles. In those four years, twice the Cowboys held Baylor to its lowest point total of the season. Another year the Bears had their second-lowest output against OSU and the other year it was the fourth lowest. In each of those, current West Virginia defensive coordinator Joe DeForest was on the OSU defensive staff.
  • In the last two seasons, Baylor has given up 114 points to Oklahoma State. That was in 2010, when Dana Holgorsen was OSU's offensive coordinator, and in 2011, when the Cowboys were still running Holgorsen's schemes.
  • To put it simply, Oklahoma State seems to have Baylor's number. And West Virginia has a definite OSU flavor to it on both sides of the ball.

    Holgorsen, for his part, agrees with the assessment, but cautions against reading too much into it.

    "I was a part of one of those victories two years ago (55-28 in Stillwater) and Oklahoma State just did such a good job of moving the ball on offense that Baylor was always playing from behind,'' Holgorsen said. "Sure, we'll look at those tapes and Coach Briles will look at those tapes and try to see if there are some similarities. But every year is different.''

    Indeed, there are some stark differences, not the least of which is that none of West Virginia's players were involved in any of those OSU-Baylor games. Nor have the Mountaineers ever been involved in a game with the Bears, this being one of two Big 12 opponents (Iowa State is the other) where there is no history at all between the schools.

    But trust that they will all have been introduced to how Oklahoma State has handled Baylor while being guided in some part by coaches who are now at West Virginia. How much they will glean from that remains to be seen.

    "Oklahoma State did a great job. They had a great team last year,'' Smith said after watching at least some of last year's rout. "But we're a different team. We run pretty much the same style offense, so I'll get some hints on some things that I might like and things I might want to do in the game. But other than that it's a different game.''

    For the record, last year's OSU-Baylor game wasn't even as close as the lopsided final score. The Cowboys led 35-0 at halftime and 42-0 before the Bears scored. Somehow, though, Baylor managed a staggering 622 yards of offense, 36 first downs and a nearly 2-to-1 edge in time of possession, but turned the ball over five times.

    The Bears will get their yards against West Virginia today, too. Quarterback Nick Florence leads the nation in total offense and Baylor is among the top six teams in the country in passing, total offense and scoring.

    But as far as doing what matters - scoring and preventing scores - that's where studying Oklahoma State's success against Baylor could come in handy. Yes, every game is different, but there has to be something to OSU's success that West Virginia can borrow.

    "When Baylor lines up and plays Oklahoma State this year it's going to be a completely different ball game,'' Holgorsen said. "You can try to take some things and learn from it, but ultimately it's preparing the team that you have this year to play the best you possibly can and putting those guys in position to make plays.''

    Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.

     


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